Best ATP and WTA Future Values in Acapulco

Best ATP and WTA Future Values in Acapulco article feature image
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© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Three ATP tournaments kick off this week in Acapulco, Dubai, and Sao Paulo. Only one WTA tournament, in Acapulco, which Stuck will touch on at the end of this piece. Let’s try to identify value in the futures market, as we try to hit our fifth consecutive tourney winner to start 2018.

Defending Champs

  • Acapulco: Sam Querrey (d.) Rafa Nadal
  • Dubai: Andy Murray (d.) Fernando Verdasco (playing Acapulco)
  • Sao Paulo: Pablo Cuevas (d.) Albert Ramos

The Dubai draw is surprisingly weak this year with Grigor Dimitrov, Lucas Pouille, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Damir Džumhur as the top-four seeds. Last year’s finalists (Andy Murray and Fernando Verdasco) are missing in action. I didn’t see much value in any of the posted outright odds for this tournament that kicked off overnight.

There is a pretty decent-looking clay tournament in Sao Paulo. The top four seeds are Albert Ramos Viñolas, Fabio Fognini, Pablo Cuevas, and Gaël Monfils. However, I don’t have much of a read here for an outright winner from a very competitive field in Brazil.

However, I do like an outright in Acapulco, which I will break down in detail below. The first men’s and women’s match of each respective tournament in Acapulco starts at 5 p.m. ET on Monday evening.

ABIERTO MEXICANO TELCEL

Acapulco, Mexico | Feb. 26 – Mar. 3 

Site: Princess Mundo Imperial
Surface: Hard
Balls: Wilson
Prize Money: $1,642,795

Top 8 Seeds Form Check (Price)
  1. Rafa Nadal (9-4)
  2. Alexander Zverev (7-1) 
  3. Dominic Thiem (12-1) ↑
  4. Jack Sock (25-1) 
  5. Kevin Anderson (14-1) ↑
  6. Juan Martín del Potro (5-1) 
  7. Sam Querrey (20-1) ↑
  8. John Isner (20-1) 

Top Half

With the clay-like slow court conditions, I like Nadal to come out of a relatively easy half of the draw, but there is zero value at just over 2-1 odds. He shouldn’t sweat much until a potential match against Querrey in the third round. Querrey loves the slow-hard conditions in Acapulco … and Mexico in general, where he won his only two titles of 2017 (Acapulco and Los Cabos).

Elsewhere in the top half, I expect a good week from Anderson, whose game will be suited by the conditions. KA is coming off a tournament win on Long Island last week. He was serving big, hitting crisply off the ground, and of course firing himself up with his trademark “come on Kevin.” With defensive players like Adrian Mannarino and Hyeon Chung in his path, Anderson will face some obstacles. However, he owns a 4-1 combined record against the pair, only losing to Mannarino back in 2012.

Two wild cards in the top half are the aforementioned Chung and also American Sock. Chung garnered a little too much hype in my opinion after his breakthrough at the Australian Open. I do think Chung has elite defensive skills, but he lacks the attack game (right now) to post consistent results, as we saw this week in Delray when he lost to young American Frances Tiafoe at a price close to -400. Conversely, Sock clearly has the attack game, but lacks the point-to-point consistency required to win matches. But, as we saw from him last year in Paris, he can get hot at any moment, and the conditions in Acapulco suit his shotmaking ability.

Bottom Half

In the bottom half (specifically in the top of the bottom half), we find a lot of big names packed into tight quarters, including Thiem, del Potro, and Kei Nishikori.

While Thiem and Delpo are the two favorites to meet in the quarterfinals seedwise, the top region of the bottom half of the draw is completely up for grabs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nishikori (with a tournament under his belt) or NextGeners Andrey Rublev or Denis Shapovalov in the quarterfinal.

Del Potro, who is the second-highest-priced favorite to win this tournament at 6-1, has attributed many of his early-season struggles to off-court issues. After splitting with his girlfriend, del Potro admitted he has lacked proper preparation of late.  According to the Argentine, he will “be doing better as time goes on,” but I’m not sure now is that time. He looked quite out of shape last week in Delray, where he lost to Tiafoe.

Rublev is interesting, but will potentially have to come through David Ferrer, Delpo, and Thiem in his first three matches. That is too rough of a path. I also gave Thiem a good look, considering how the slow clay-like conditions in Acapulco suit his game perfectly. He also won here in 2016 and looked good on the clay thus far this season (winning a title in Buenos Aires). Ultimately, I think his recent early-round folly against Verdasco will end up giving the Austrian some time to recharge the tank.

The Pick: Alexander Zverev (7-1)

But the play in Acapulco from a futures perspective is Zverev, for two reasons. First things first — it’s time for Zverev to prove his class. He hasn’t looked like a top-five player since Montreal, but these conditions provide a perfect stage for him to straighten out his game. I think a slow hard court will end up being his best career surface. Second, I love his projected path:

1R: Stevie Johnson
2R: Gojowczyk/Gomez
QF: Isner/Schwartzman
SF: Thiem/del Potro/Nishikori
F: Nadal

Frankly, his first-round match against Johnson, who also loves slow hard courts, might be Zverev’s trickiest one. Johnson won the only match the two have played in 2016 on a similar slow hard court in Miami (in two tiebreakers). Johnson has no backhand, which has really caught up with him this season (as his serve and forehand haven’t picked up the slack). I think Zverev ultimately gets through, which should give him some needed confidence.

In the second round, he’ll catch a bit of a break with Peter Gojowczyk or Lucas Gomez, and I like how he matches up in the third round, likely against a struggling John Isner or Diego Schwartzman (despite the 0-1 head-to-head record).

Here’s the deal: If Zverev gets through his first two or three matches, he should accumulate the confidence needed to open his game up. I saw glimpses, if not extended stretches, of the “Zverev of old” at Davis Cup a few weeks back. After grinding out a five-setter against Aussie young gun Alex de Minaur (whom I love), Zverev bullied Nick Kyrgios in a decisive straight-set win for Germany. In that match, Zverev dictated with his flat and powerful forehand, which I hadn’t seen in months. He’s close to regaining his top-five form.

Although he didn’t find that level a couple weeks ago in Rotterdam, I think he’ll “get up” for this tournament, especially with such a talented field. And if it comes down to a Nadal-Zverev final, the young German has played Rafa very close in the past. Although Nadal has won all three matches, Zverev pushed him the distance in both hard court meetings. Nadal came back to win in five sets at the Aussie Open and in three sets at Indian Wells, which Zverev lost on a botched volley at the net.

At 7-1, there is too much value to pass up on with Zverev.

Stuckey Says: Belinda Bencic (7-1)

The WTA field is nowhere close to as sexy as the ATP side, which presents an opportunity for Bencic to continue her recent form in conditions that will suit her game. I actually think her recent break will really benefit her game, as she played (and won) a ton of tennis leading up to the Australian Open. If she gets through her first-round match, she should be off and running through a favorable draw.

Photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports